On music, motherhood and the parallel lives explored in the book:
If I could somehow live two lives, as Lisa Nelson does, I would also have a child. It’s such a rich thing — regret. Because yes, I really regret not having a child. At the same time, I know it was probably the right choice for me.
The book’s final third re-introduces Lisa as a childless woman again, a version closer to Carson’s own life. She buries her father (as Carson herself did a couple of years ago), scores a film, plays a song for an adoring crowd, and wonders who her child would have been if she’d had her. She starts making notes for what might become a book. Near the book’s end, Lisa runs into Sofia, an old friend of hers from her waitressing days. Sofia is hanging out with her three-year-old grandson. “’Are you still singing?’ Sofia asks. ‘I have your music on my iPod. I’m so proud of you!’” Lisa muses about this. “I tell her I’m not singing so much, but that I’m still doing music. I don’t say that I would trade it, in a second, to have what she has.” I wonder if Carson knows that most people would trade everything they had to have had a life like hers?
NT: Where did Lisa come from? Is she a happy accident or a carefully plotted character based upon people in your real life?
LC: Lisa Nelson, the protagonist in The Original 1982, is a singer-songwriter who creates a daughter out of her imagination and longing for one. She was pretty easy for me to imagine.
NT: How are you able to balance work, family and your new writing career?
LC: I’ve always devoted most of my time to my work. Prior to writing my novel, I wrote songs, and worked on assorted music projects. So it’s not that dramatic a change. Although writing fiction does require a huge commitment in terms of time. But I’m not married, and don’t have my own family. I’ve got a dog and a couple of cats. They’re patient. I chose to have an artist’s life a long time ago.